Saturday, February 25, 2006

Aftermath (i)

Work today was strange, and sad, and somber. I felt exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and I'm sure my other co-workers felt the same, but we all had our game faces on. I'm sure, though, that not one single minute went by that I didn't have some thought about Elizabeth. The range of my thoughts cut a wide berth on the spectrum of human emotion. I went from being sad, to being pissed off, to being sympathetic, and many more.

When I first arrived today, my boss greeted me and asked if I was ok. I told her yes, but I was very tired and had an awful headache. Then she asked me if I had been shocked by what happened the night before. I looked at her a little puzzled and replied affirmatively. Of course.

She updated me about Elizabeth. She's in the Korean equivalent of ICU. She should be ok. She had woken up - maybe this morning? Karen had sat with her a couple hours after the doctors pumped her stomach last night and she hadn't regained consciousness.

Then something a little strange happened. My boss started to downplay everything that had occurred. Elizabeth had only taken a little medicine. It had been an accident. She hadn't meant anything. It was all just a big mistake. I started to counterpoint, why had she written a note?
"It was like a journal entry," said my boss.
Ummm yah. Written on a single piece of paper with the pen left beside it, it was the only thing on the desk, in plain view. After I saw Elizabeth, that note was the second thing to catch my attention. We hadn't been in her living room for a full minute before I pointed to it and said "what does that say?" Before the paramedics even checked anything on Elizabeth, the neighbour handed them the note to clarify.
Curiously, there was also a yellow post-it note stuck to the mirror. My boss's little son read it aloud, and that I could understand. It read "why does my head hurt so much?"

I stopped myself from arguing about the details of what I'd seen the night before. My eyes were suddenly moist, and I echoed that post-it note in a way, "I really do have a very bad headache." The bell signaling the first class was about to ring.

I printed out word searches for most of my classes, which I almost never do. (I think it's been almost a year since they had one.) It's lazy teaching. I divided the class into teams of 2 or 3 and told them the first team to get 15 words, or the team with the most words when "times up" (see: when the bell rings) would get CANDY! As they work, the room is quiet, and I am left alone.

Breaks were spent quietly in the teachers' room. I spent a lot of time with my head in my hands.

After work, the three of us sat and talked. At some point this weekend, my boss will hopefully get to visit Elizabeth in the hospital. What will happen next is up in the air. All of us want her to come back, but we're all pretty sure she won't.

Again, my boss tried to soften the edges of everything. I told her I understood what she was saying, but that I disagreed. She had been told that they hadn't found anything in her stomach, just a little food. I told her that stood to reason, as Elizabeth has ingested whatever it was who knows when? It had been hours before we found her. It would be in her blood stream by then, wouldn't it? She told me Elizabeth had only taken a little something something. I couldn't argue, but know only Elizabeth knows how much she took. I told my boss I'd seen the paramedics grab the skin on her chest and shake - hard - and she'd only feebly lifted her hand. Her chest wall was barely moving. There was only barely visible movement in her diagphragm. When we first came in, I reached down and cupped the side of her face. She was warm, and I was relieved. I thought she was dead.

Talking with my boss, I thought to myself, "You can take a shit-cake and frost it with lovely pink cherry icing, and decorate it with pretty sugar flowers - and it will still be what it is: CRAP."

I told my boss, again, that I understood what she was saying. And - I think I understand some of the reasons she was saying it. Saving face on Elizabeth's behalf, re-arranging events for her own mind, creating a path - an "out," that will make it easier for Elizabeth to return if she chooses to, especially in the mind of her younger co-worker. It makes sense, and anyone is certainly free to think what they want.

However, I told my boss that there was obviously something wrong with Elizabeth. I'm glad to know that she will be physically ok, but I'm concerned for her mental health. I don't want to pretend it was less that it was because I am painfully aware that there was intention behind her actions. I don't think anyone should be glossing over anything, and all concerned - family, friends, and co-workers should be on board to ensuring she gets some help. I've been told that a shrink will not visit a patient in hospital who has attempted suicide in Korea. Once her body's ready to be released, then that's what will happen, and this concerns me.

It concerns me a lot.
Actually, right now, it consumes me.


milgwimper said...

It is sad that a psychologist will not visit her in the hospital to get evaluated and possibly get her more treatment options. I am just hoping that she will get the help she will need after the hospital visit. I am praying for you and Elizabeth. Take some time for yourself; you need it. :) HUGZ

Joel said...

I think you've read your boss's intentions quite clearly. Suicide, when succesful, is a quite acceptable method of escape in Korea. But when it's unsuccesful rather than viewing it as a cry for help, it becomes just another way for people to judge. She'll get support from your boss and her family who have an obligation to her, but she'll really need the support of some non-judgemental friends like you.

John McCrarey said...

I am glad to hear that Elizabeth is going to be ok, at least physically. Stay strong, Jenn. I hope she finds help. Just let her know you care.